Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen – 08

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Haqua is attending a briefing at the New Hell Bureau of the Peace, when she asks the chief about the rumors that Vintage has infiltrated the Loose Souls Team. When she tries to return to earth, she’s arrested and thrown in jail. Back on earth, Diana has Keima assemble the released goddesses and show them Apollo/Kanon. They combine their powers to call to her, and Keima is drawn into a world created by Apollo, where she is praying to shift the fortunes of his town.

Keima has three days to find the last goddess. Based on past events he determines Chihiro to be the most likely host, and so chooses to conquer her first. He accepts when she asks him to be her date for the Festival Eve bonfire. He also asks Ayumi that it’s her last chance to get mad at him, and she doesn’t. That night Keima and Chihiro slink away from the fire to find a more private spot. Back in New Hell, Haqua is charged with treason as the Vintage infiltrator  Lune gloats.

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Both Chihiro and Ayumi like Keima, but only one of them likes him because the goddess she’s hosting restored her memories of his conquest of her. The other likes him because she really likes him, which means (to us at least) that whichever girl has those real feelings should still have them after the Goddess dilemma has been resolved. If Chihiro is the final host, then Ayumi is the one who really loves him. So…is Chihiro the final host? Keima is certainly operating under that assumption on the first of three remaining days before crunch time.

But we wouldn’t put it past this show to pull a twist on us and make Ayumi the host. There are certainly enough episodes left for another twist or two, so we’ll see. In any case, if the arc ends with neither of the girls liking him, that wouldn’t make sense to us…unless his choosing of the goddess girl makes the non-goddess girl fall out of love with him. It’s not like he’d be able to explain to her what he’s been through all season, after all.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Once the goddesses are all awake, they start fighting over Keima for their hosts’ sakes. Seriously gals, there’re other guys that exist in the world!
  • Diana/Tenri definitely sprouted wings in episode 4 after Keima apologized to her, yet here she is, still wingless. We guess they were just temporary wings…
  • Why did Haqua blurt out her suspicions when for all she knew, the Vintage infiltrator was there (and, indeed, Lune was right there)? We’re not that invested in all these silly New Hell politics, but are curious to learn who’ll rescue her.

Summer 2013 OPs and EDs

It occurs to us we haven’t done one of these posts in a while, but there are a couple pieces we look forward to almost as much as the episodes they’re attached to. So here’s what we consider to be the best opening and ending sequences this Summer. (Apologizes if the YouTube videos won’t play; that means someone had them taken down.)

Best OP: Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman’s colorful, kinetic, awesome opening is our unquestioned favorite. The first frames give you a quick glimpse of just about every member of the cast, then comes back to them all standing/sitting around the city, looking cool, all to the zig-zagging “Crowds” by J-rock group White Ash, blending English and Japanese lyrics fluidly around the music. It’s also dotted with gorgeous CGI of the Gatchamen in their suits kicking ass or flying through the sky.

OP Runner-up: The World God Only Knows – Goddesses Arc

First, we like how the OP is bookended by trippy abstract patterns, and starts off with a very melodramatic ballad-like sound that segues into the original TWGOK leitmotif, before going back to doing its own thing with a happy, optimistic tune as Keima and his conquests are presented. The whole thing is suffused with a divine and angelic tone very appropriate for a show full of goddesses. The theme is by Oratorio The World God Only Knows, with very upbeat English lyrics.

Best ED: Free!

For us, this was as much of a no-brainer as Gatchaman for the OP category. The thumping club-like theme “SPLASH FREE” by STYLE FIVE (composed of the five male leads’ voice seiyus, which is welcome news to us as of this writing) is perfectly complements the little tale of water-loving Nagisa traversing the barren desert in search of water, finding none in town, being mocked by Rei, who has plenty of it, and finally coming across an oasis where he jumps right in with the others.

ED Runner-up: Blood Lad

Both the OP and ED of Blood Lad are highly conventional, and don’t blaze any trails, including the tendency for the ED to be a slower, more morose counterpoint to the fast, upbeat, rocky OP (or vice versa). Still, we think the ED is very well executed, focusing on Fuyumi and Bell and their struggle for Staz’s attention. We particularly like the final sequence of Fuyumi inexplicably beaming very widely; she and Staz set back in the wildly-colored graveyard as Bell peeks her head out of a portal in the foreground, looking displeased.

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen – 04

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Keima is confident Shiori is hosting a goddess, but he can move on to anyone else, he’s cornered in the library by Tsukiyo’s doll, Luna, who reveals that Tsukiyo is hosting the goddess Vulcanus, who cannot move her body but only manipulate other objects. She attacks Keima believing him to be unfaithful. Meanwhile, Nora discovers the miasma-covered Kanon, and Haqua has to explain. Keima gets beaten up to the point Tsukiyo trusts him and gives him a kiss while he’s passed out. The kiss boosts her goddess powers and she sprouts wings.

Diana meets with her sister and Keima takes them to Kanon, where they combine their powers to remove the Vintage Weiss curse. Even so, Apollo is still very weak and casts a “hydration” spell on herself, keeping Kanon unconscious. With three goddesses left to awaken, Keima reaches a deal with Nora to delay her report to her superiors for a week. Jealous of her sister’s wings, Diana/Tenri confronts Keima right as Haqua is insisting he tells her he needs her. Keima apologizes to Diana, and she sprouts wings as well.

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Keima is deep into the RPG of his life, with the role of agent of the preservation of New Hell, only he isn’t playing a game. Whereas the first season of TWGOK, the stakes were limited to his life and perhaps the lives of his conquests, this time an entire dimension is at stake, only the united goddesses can save it, and only he can release them from the girls he’s conquered. So far so good; despite working with limited resources and a very tight-knit network of girls with endless possibilities for slip-ups, he’s comported himself well and even facilitated the release of the curse on Kanon.

As the details of Keima’s grand mission and the myriad complications from all sides pile up, the entire series is ever on the cusp of being swallowed up in plot, but this season has been very clever at dispensing huge amounts of exposition while keeping the story moving with swiftness and urgency. It also knows just when to lighten things with a quip or observation that all of this is, in fact, quite absurd. An example of this is the fact that while the girls who remember loving Keima are all competing against one another, so too are the goddesses they host, and even Haqua is competing with Nora for Keima’s favor. Never a dull moment for this guy.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

The World God Only Knows II 9

How does the ketchup stay so perfect?

Jun Nagase: twenty-one years old; pro-wrestling fan; student teacher. She lives her life by the ideals of Jumbo Tsuruma: life is full of challenges; face them with everything you’ve got. Nagase is extremely stoked and confident about being the best damn teacher she can be. The male students salivate over her. The female students admire her. But there’s one student who she instantly identifies as a problem child: Keima Katsuragi. Keima is her project. And when she’s suddenly infected with a loose soul, she becomes his, much to his dismay.

Keima knows teachers from dating sims. They’re the toughest, most time-consuming conquests, due to the inherent problems with the student-teacher relationship. Clawing one’s way onto equal footing is not easy, and that’s just the first step; after becoming legitimate friends, he must take it a step further to love. As long as he stays away from Nagase, he can reach that equal footing sooner. But being her project, she gets right in his face and makes the first move. For the first time in a while, Keima is genuinely flustered.

This episode would make no sense whatsoever to a God Only Knows noob, because they’d assume everything Nagase assumes about Keima. She has no idea what his philosophy or M.O. is, and so formulates her own: he’s a shy, bored, troubled youth who needs her help. She even manages to reveal something in common between them: she loves pro-wrestling more than MMA because she values ideals over reality, just as he does. Aki Toyosaki brings a surefooted, bubbly exuberance to the role without coming off as annoying. With both participants on missions to reform/court the other, this should make for a most interesting final conquest. Rating: 4

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And so we finally meet another demon in Haqua. She seems more mature and accomplished than Elcee at first, but all it takes is for her to ask Elcee how many loose souls she’s captured to reveal that she’s all talk. Loud and annoying as Elcee is, she likes red fire trucks (so do I) and is honest, which is more than I can say for the so-called “section chief”.

This episode also laid out exactly why cute girls refer to themselves as demons from hell. See, there was a brutal, savage hell way back when, but the demons who lived there split in too, with Elcee and Haqua’s half starting up a new Hell based on order and logic, whatever that means. So the girls are new demons fighting old demons. And this is the first time we see a loose soul gaining enough power to become a true threat.

I like how Keima doesn’t flinch in the midst of Haqua’s self-importance or her threats and teasing. He sees right through her almost immediately, but because she possesses knowledge he hasn’t been able to pry from Elcee, her presence is fortuitous. Now she’ll surely have to work with Elcee in order to defeat the soul she let escape and become more powerful. Derp derp…Rating: 3

Fall 2010 – Best Openings and Endings

Openings

Star Driver – The sequence was directed by Shinichiro Wantanabe, and it shows: few do rough+fluid better than him. The right-to-left side-scrolling mimics how you’d read a Japanese manga. I love how the cybody bursts out of the ocean at the end, and Takuto jumps in and blasts off: Alrighty, we’re ready to start this thing! A stirring rock number by Aqua Timez brims with hopeful lyrics and melodic diversity, matching and augmenting the energy of the animation.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – I love jazz, and I love Japanese Jazz even more (Pizzicato Five is a good example). You can’t help but tap your feet to the number that accompanies lots of vibrant, syncopated animation in which the cast dances and sings along while performing maid duties. The title is a CGI spinning globe covered in lights. This opening perfectly encapsulates the soul, energy, and potential of the big city. I also liken the whole opening to Hotori’s imagined ideal of the city and her life: happy, upbeat, and full of promise.

The World God Only Knows – This opening could very well have been done by the same people who did Eden of the East (one of my favorite openings ever), as a lot of the style is simply lifted from there, but I don’t care. Like any effective opening, it’s an accurate depiction of the series as a whole: Keima is a god in the (2D) world of games, and uses that power in the real (3D) world. The transition from pulsing electronica to an impromptu aria is sudden, but it works, as it reinforces the religious undertones of Keima’s abilities.

Honorable Mention: Kuragehime – The numerous parodies to western popular culture (Star Wars, Sex in the City) are fun, but the main reason I like this opening is the sweet, earnestly-sung theme, “Koko Dake no Hanashi”, by Chatmonchy. It’s not an easy song to sing, requiring lots of range, but it’s beautifully pulled off with a nice balance of resolve and vulnerability.

Endings

Panty & Stocking – Both the ballad (“Fallen Angel” by Aimee B) and the animation are spot on in this short but sweet ending that captures the essence of the show perfectly, and in a refreshingly more serious tone than the show itself. The animation consists of the girls in simplified form about to be killed by various means (driving off a cliff, eaten by a monster, passing out in the desert and picked apart by vultures), all while bobbing their heads to the beat. The dark visual themes are lightened by the style in which they’re rendered…and the gorgeous vocals. In the end, the girls ascend to heaven, get their halos, come back down, and tip them like barbershop hats. The whole thing lasts only 58 seconds.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 (episodes 1-5) The opening of Arakawa’s first season was one of my favorites, and season two’s, while fun, isn’t quite as good. This season’s ending is better than last’s, however, with a fully live-action sequence following Hoshi through a lush green forest and on stage, and Kappa along the riverbank. Even the real-life bridge itself makes an appearance. While the live action character’s faces are just plain creepy, I love it whenever anime jumps ino the real world (the splendid endings of FLCL and Kare Kano, for instance), and the haunting, slightly melancholy ballad is a good musical choice, though it couldn’t be further from anime Hoshi’s out-of-tune strumming.

Shiki (Second Season) – Many series pick one musician or group do the opening and one to do the ending, then switch them either halfway through the season or in the next season. A post/Gothic rock band called Buck-Tick did the stirring opening for Shiki’s first season, and it was excellent. This season, they did the ending theme. Slow pans of four key characters lounging nude in a foreboding, eerily moonlit pond full of blood. Combined with Buck-Tick’s dark, brooding theme, the atmosphere has the darkness and silky thickness of a warm pint of Guinness.